Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yukon Ho!

Date: Aug. 13
Mileage: 21.1
August mileage: 315.1
Temperature upon departure: 68
Inches of rain: 0"

"But if something hurts so much, how can it be enjoyable? At the point where physical stress begins to take you beyond what you imagine to be endurable, you enter new territory of understanding, an expanded psychological landscape. ... The pleasure comes when you grasp just what has happened inside your head and spirit. It doesn’t stop when the bike stops, when you reach the top of the col or peel off at the end of the ride, so tired you can hardly think or stand straight. That’s where the pleasure begins. The self-knowledge."

I took Roadie out for a short test spin this morning (Yes, I really did wear that T-shirt and those socks. I really am turning into my father.) I was planning to weigh the bike before the trip. But as I huffed and puffed and hoisted it up the stairs, I thought better of it. I don't want that number spinning through my head as I'm chugging up a 3,500-foot pass tomorrow. In cases like that, ignorance is about as close to bliss as I'm going to get.

The first few seconds on a loaded bicycle are always a scary experience for me. I feel like I'm going to tip and tumble and I wonder how I'm ever going to pilot the thing one mile, let alone 100 miles or 1,000 miles. But once the tires get rolling, I find my balance and almost forget about all that extra weight ... until the first hill, that is.

Eight hours from now, I'm going to leave on my trip around the Golden Circle. I don't know what I'm going to tell the people at Canadian customs. That I'm going to be back in Alaska in 48 hours? They'll never buy it. They'll tell me it can't be done. Maybe it can't be done (by me.) Or maybe it will be frighteningly easy. Most likely, the effort will fall somewhere in between ... full of that phantom fatigue that burns behind your eyes when all there is to see is endless miles of raw, uncaring beauty.

I don't have any expectations for myself but to finish; I don't have anything to do out there but ride. If only life could be as simple as the road. And yet, I fully expect to suffer in kind. A road with no forks means there is no escape; and, not unlike life, its unrelenting pull only goes one direction.

I wonder if the Canadian customs agents will ask me the omnipresent question ... Why? As in, "Why would you try to bike to Skagway in two days, when you could just do it in nine - with vehicle support, and smoked salmon for lunch, and a place to lay down for the night where you will not have to shiver yourself to sleep?" It's a good question that ripples across most aspects of modern life. This ride does not need to be hard. I make it artificially hard. I seek out the suffering. I do not know whether I do so because there is something missing in my life, or because there is something to gain. It may be a little of both.

I can not visualize the words, but there must be a reason to choose battle over comfort, even when the fight is an entirely selfish one, and there is nothing to gain but a vague notion of self-confidence. Will I earn it? I don't know. Every battle won only leads me deeper into the war.

"Herein lies the heroism of this beautiful sport — the inner revelation that makes the cyclist impervious to ordinary weakness because every ride he has ever made exposes him to that defeatist voice; he has known it, faced it and conquered the fear of it, again and again and again."
- Graeme Fife


  1. Is what you're grasping for deeper than our need for conflict, for obstacles to overcome? Don't we inherently crave challenges and difficulties?

    Yours are good battles, well worth the fighting. They take no prisoners and create no casualties. Capturing intangible glistening flags from mountains, hills and valleys, and long stretches of trails and roads is the best high I know of. Wage on, warrior - the crusade is worthy!

  2. Have fun and ride safe, Jill. I'm sure you can and will meet your ferry restrictions and enjoy a fantastic training ride along the way. Looking forward to your report on your return!

  3. You will never forget this experience. It is one of those personal defining moments that you can look back on years from now with a smile and a warm rememberance.
    As Dylan Thomas said "do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light . . . "
    Have a wonderful adventure!

  4. ENJOY yourself, Jill! Have a good time, ride smart, and we'll be waiting for you upon your return (well, we'll be waiting to hear all about your adventures ... inside and out).


  5. " bold and mighty forces will come to your aid..." - Goethe

    " be safe " - Mike

  6. Have fun out there! I'm jealous!

  7. Good idea to skip the weigh-in, that number would stick in your head like a bad song. Hope you remembered the iPOD!

    May the wind be always at your back...

  8. Nice post! I think we continually address the question, "Who am I?" at one level or another, deeply or social roles - the answer invariably shifts around. I think our pursuit of challenge, pain, unattainable (perhaps) goals are all evidence of self-definition - a need to answer our own question.

    Have fun - you've already succeeded - the longest journey begins with a single step (or crank revolution!).


  9. Kick@$$, Rock On and stuff!!

    No philisophical rants from me. Pedaling your bike forward for no apparent reason other to enjoy the passion and experience. Yah that is the essence of Winnie the Pooh, Taoism and Zen.

    Crap, was that philisophical?

  10. With each bit of suffering you grow your person so that there is always something missing or something to gain. That is how 'amazing' people are created. Its always a journey. Be safe on yours :)

  11. I'm confused...are we talking about dieting or biking? ;-)

  12. I wish you the best. Wow! Taking your camera? Beautiful photography, btw.

    Regarding the socks, I say, wear whatever is comfortable and works! :)

  13. Have fun and don't let the canadians convert you!

  14. "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved. " - Helen Keller

  15. Hey! look what i've just found in the network to find out who deleted you from MSN without noticing it.

  16. best wishes to you on this momentous journey! ride safely but enjoy the thrill.


Feedback is always appreciated!